Top Ten Tuesday: My Nightmare Class

This week’s TTT, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, has a back-to-school theme, which means it is deeply depressing for me, because I am a teacher and, much as a I like teaching, I also like not having to go to work. I have decided to celebrate/commemorate this occasion by listing the characters I would most definitely not want in my class.

Gansey from The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
Don’t shout at me, TRC fans. Gansey has some good qualities and everything, but I can’t see a situation in which he’d be in my class and I wouldn’t end up screaming “JUST SHUT UP ABOUT GLENDOWER, OK?” and throwing a post-it at him.

Noah from I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
I like Noah and everything, but he’d definitely be a doodler and I can’t abide that.

Keats from The Museum of You by Meg Leder
Keats is such a pretentious douchebag and, coincidentally, is named after a poet whose work I severely dislike. I would not be able to tolerate his nonsense.

Joanna from The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
In the context of the Games, I love Joanna. In the context of my classroom, she’d definitely be the one storming into the room in a massive strop and refusing to do any work because she “didn’t feel like it.”

Lacey, Dex and Nikki from Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
All three of these girls would scare the b’jaysus out of me, and, much as I empathise with the dramas of being a teenage girl, theirs are far too disturbing.

Alaska from Looking for Alaska by John Green
I don’t want Alaska, or Paper Towns‘ Margo, or any of their manic pixie dream girl brethren anywhere near my lessons; they’d never actually answer the question in an essay and if I called on them in class they’d probably be tap-dancing or something.

Amy Gumm from Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
If there’s one thing that really annoys me as a teacher (there is more than one thing, obviously), it’s kids complaining about how hard things are before they’ve even tried them properly. Amy (along with every other fictional teen who suddenly discovers they have magical powers) complains ALL THE TIME about her magic lessons, even though learning magic is clearly completely awesome.

Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Don’t get me wrong; I love this book and I love Holden. But I would not need his less-than-positive attitude in my class, calling people “phonies” and wearing a silly hat.

Kevin from We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Mikey from The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Supposedly, you’re not meant to have favourites as a teacher. For this reason, I couldn’t teach Mikey; he is so sweet and so in need of someone to look out for him that I would clearly like him the best and this would compromise my professionalism, which is obviously extremely important to me.

It is possible that I should print out this list and stick it to my desk; then, the next time I feel annoyed that a student has spelt my name wrong or attempted to text their mum during a lesson, I can at least feel grateful that none of them are chasing me with a crossbow.

Challenge Update (AKA I Am A Big Failure)

This is my first full year of book blogging and I started with lofty ideals of winning at all the challenges. I have just checked my original posts about these challenges and realised that I am a terrible, terrible person.

Goodreads Challenge
This, at least, is one that I have well and truly nailed. I gave myself a target of reading 151 books and have currently reached 190. This one was, perhaps, slightly disingenuous; I read 151 books last year so I set myself the same target in 2016, despite being fully aware that I’d beat it. And, no, I am not increasing my target, because I really enjoy logging into Goodreads and being told that I have exceeded my target. It makes me feel like I’ve achieved something.


2016 Classics Challenge
Sigh. I probably have managed to read a classic each month, but my initial intentions of reading The Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch have somewhat fallen by the wayside. I originally voiced my intention to read Hard Times, which I did, and it was horrible. I diverted from my own plans slightly by re-reading Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility, as well as some modern classics, like Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea and Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, all of which I class as modern classics. I also read Matilda for the millionth time, as well as Winnie the Pooh with my daughter, and children’s classics count. However, I need to read George Eliot or feel like a failure forever.

Flights of Fantasyflightsoffantasy-2016
This is where I’ve truly excelled (yay for me). I planned to read V.E. Schwab’s 2016 releases (A Gathering of Shadows and This Savage Song) and have done, and I’ve demolished Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. I also read Magonia, An Ember in the Ashes and The Sin-Eater’s Daughter, all of which were on my sign-up post. I’ve started to seek out more diverse fantasy novels too, and have recently read Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor and Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova.

This is my grand failure; because of my disgraceful inability to stop buying books, pretty much everything that’s been knocking around my bookshelf forever is still there, including David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks and Sandra Newman’s The County of Ice Cream Star. I wanted to read The Raven Cycle and, woohoo, I have, so I think I get a gold star for that. I originally intended to read some of the books I had piled in my Kindle, which I did, like Undermajordomo Minor, All My Puny Sorrows and The Girl in the Red Coat. Unfortunately, I also planned to read last year’s Booker shortlist; Satin Island was horribly boring and I didn’t manage to get past page 50 of A Brief History of Seven Killings, although I did read The Year of the Runaways. Sadly, I can only count this challenge to be a success if I rename it Constantly Add to My TBR, in which case I am a big winner.

This experience has probably taught me that I shouldn’t bother signing up for challenges, but I doubt this will stop me next year.

Did you sign up for challenges this year? How are you doing? Are you failing on a grand scale like me?

ARC August Update: If Only I Had Self-Control…

At the start of August, I set myself the target of reading 5 of my ARCS; halfway through the month, I’ve read 3 and become a little waylaid, as I will explain…

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
This was completely wonderful and I am now obsessed with it. You might know Safran Foer from his previous novels (Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), but Here I Am is a big step up in terms of length and scope. It focuses on a Jewish family in the USA, set against the backdrop of a huge crisis in Israel, and it is brilliant. My review will be over on Fourth and Sycamore in September.

Notes on Being Teenage by Rosalind Jana
A guide to surviving adolescence, this combined useful advice with personal anecdote, as well as interviews with ‘real life’ teens and celebrities, in order to provide help in navigating the teenage years. Although I am far too old to worry about most of what is covered here myself, a lot of it resonated with me based on what I see as a teacher of teens, as well as filling me with fear that one day my daughter will be a teenager. I had a few books like this when I was a teenager and I know I found them helpful and informative, so I think teens would feel the same way about this.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova
This is a YA fantasy set in Brooklyn (to be begin with), featuring a multitude of witches  and demons. I enjoyed the aspects of it which represented a different culture, although the fantasy itself was a bit generic; my full review will be on Fourth and Sycamore in September.

Flushed with a sense of achievement at having read 3 of my ARCs, I got a bit click-happy on NetGalley and ended up with a load more. This is probably false economy or something. Anyway, in addition to the 3 books above, I’ve read:

Something In Between by Melissa de la Cruz
A YA contemporary about immigration, this provides something quite different in terms of combining politics with romance. My review will be up in November.

As I Descended by Robin Talley
YA retelling of Macbeth, with lesbians, in a boarding school. What’s not to like? My full review will be up in September, but suffice to say I really enjoyed this.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas by various UK YA authors
I was so happy to receive an eARC of this; I’m always on the lookout for good short stories to use at school and there were plenty here. It’s also a really good introduction to UK YA authors for a reader new to the scene, featuring Juno Dawson, Lisa Williamson, Holly Bourne and Benjamin Zephaniah, among others. I really enjoyed the whole anthology and I’ll be posting a review (and buying a copy of the book) soon.

So this leaves me with Simon Mayo’s Blame, which I’ve already started, and Tim Lawrence’s Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor to read in order to fulfil my original goal. Not wanting to sound arrogant, I am fairly confident they’ll be read by the end of the month. If reading was in the Olympics, I’d be sitting with Claire Balding right now, wearing a gold medal and talking about how sexist John Inverdale is (apologies to non-Brits who have no idea what all this means). I’ve picked up a couple of other ARCs, like The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and The Wangs Vs The World by Jade Chang, but I think these can wait till next month.

Are you taking part in ARC August? How are you doing and have you read anything amazing?

Review: Dietland by Sarai Walker

dietland.jpgRegular visitors to this blog will know that I am a big fan of snarky feminist novels, and I can now add Dietland to my list of these. It’s a really interesting novel which is ostensibly about Plum, an overweight woman contemplating drastic surgery in order to more readily fit society’s expectations of beauty. In the background, but becoming increasingly linked to Plum’s story, is an aggressive campaign of attacks against men and patriarchal structures, with the elusive Jennifer fighting back against rape and objectification.

Earlier this year, I really enjoyed Julie Murphy’s Dumplin‘, which, like Dietland, used an overweight narrator to show the isolation that it creates. There are some interesting differences; for one thing, Murphy’s Willowdean owns the word “fat,” meaning that it can’t be used against her as an insult, whereas Plum is offended when others use the word and chooses not to use it herself when it’s avoidable. Both books are about learning to love the body you have, rather than making yourself miserable yearning for the body you’re meant to have, which I think is a really empowering message. Also in Dietland’s favour is the cast of fascinating female characters, which makes it both unusual and refreshing; some of them are clearly slightly unhinged but really intriguing nonetheless.

Walker does a great job of skewering aspects of society which will be familiar to all humans with functioning eyes and ears; it’s hard not to cheer on the mysterious Jennifer when child rapists are being punished, vigilante-style, and there’s a very witty and well-observed short section which sees Page 3, that delightful institution of the British tabloids, gender-flipped. I smiled wryly as the book told of poor, delicate men who suddenly felt too uncomfortable to go in a newsagents’, lest they feel objectified by the appearance of male genitalia in a mainstream newspaper. I like books that make me have big, moral discussions with myself (I like them even more when someone else reads them so I don’t actually have to discuss them with myself); Jennifer’s actions of righteous revenge go pretty far, and in a real-world situation, I don’t think I’d have been whooping quite so loudly.

I’ve seen Dietland described as “Fight Club for women,” which, firstly, is very sexist because it clearly suggests that Fight Club isn’t for women, but, aside from that, I would describe it more in terms of another Chuck Palahniuk novel; Dietland, for me, is a more successful satire than Palahniuk’s Beautiful You, which was essentially a quite horrible book about the breakdown of society as a consequence of women becoming addicted to sex toys. Where Beautiful You was just offensive, Dietland manages to hit its targets in terms of misogyny (and, it’s worth pointing out, the ways in which women hurt other women; it’s not like it’s some unrealistic utopia of pyjama parties and makeovers), using shock tactics as well as a believable and relatable story. It’s a really interesting and refreshing read and I recommend it.